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Richard Branson calls for second Brexit referendum based on 'real facts'

Billionaire Richard Branson called for a second referendum "based on real facts" on whether the U.K. should leave the European Union (EU) on Thursday, saying the first vote was done on a "complete false premise".

In an interview with CNBC, the Virgin owner said that Brexit is "one of the saddest things" to happen to Britain and to Europe.

"If a hard Brexit happens it would be pretty devastating and it would be the biggest sort of shot in the foot that the British people have ever done to themselves … (I) hope that sense will prevail and that when all the facts are known and are on the table, I would hope that a second referendum could take place based on real facts and not on the facts that people were given," Branson told CNBC.

"I just pray and hope that when all the facts are there … Then the British people can have the decision to decide because it was a complete false premise that a referendum was brought on in the first place."

Richard Branson
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Richard Branson

British Prime Minister Theresa May will officially notify the EU that the U.K. is planning to leave the bloc when the Article 50 process is triggered on March 29.

Some members of the U.K. parliament are trying to make a second referendum happen. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has introduced a bill that would allow citizens to vote on the final terms of the deal reached, though it is likely to be defeated inside parliament.

Businesses have already begun making contingency plans. On Tuesday, Richard Gnodde, chief executive of Goldman Sachs International, told CNBC that the bank is shifting jobs away from London while bulking up its European presence by "hundreds of people".